baseball Edit

CWS 2019: Taking a closer look at Texas Tech

Josh Jung
Josh Jung (Texas Tech Athletics)

HawgBeat's coverage of the Razorbacks' Road to Redemption in Omaha is brought to you by Arkansas Oral Surgery, which has offices located in Conway and Russellville.

For the first time in school history, Arkansas is heading back to Omaha for the second straight year. The Razorbacks’ side of the bracket features Florida State, Texas Tech and Michigan in a double-elimination format similar to the regional.

Before play begins Saturday, HawgBeat is taking a closer look at all three of those teams. Next up is the No. 8 national seed, Texas Tech…

Record: 44-18 (16-8 Big 12)

The Red Raiders were No. 4 in HawgBeat’s Preseason Composite Poll and have been ranked throughout the season. They bottomed out at No. 18, but won 13 of their final 15 regular-season games and reached the Big 12 Tournament semifinals. That helped Texas Tech earn the No. 8 national seed.

In the postseason, it swept the Lubbock Regional with a couple of close wins over Dallas Baptist and then won a deciding Game 3 against Oklahoma State at the Lubbock Super Regional to punch its ticket to Omaha.

Head coach: Tim Tadlock (7th season)

A two-time national champion at the JUCO level, Tadlock was an assistant at Oklahoma for six years before returning to his alma mater as an assistant in 2012. That lasted for just one year, as he was promoted to head coach the following season. It’s proven to be a great move for Texas Tech because Tadlock has won 66 percent of his games - which includes a losing record in Year 1 - and the Red Raiders have won at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season title three of the last four years. This is his fourth trip to the College World Series and he’s been named the national coach of the year twice, including last season.

Postseason History

Before Tadlock, Texas Tech didn’t have much of a postseason history. It didn’t make the NCAA Tournament until 1995, when it won the Southwest Conference regular-season and tournament titles, and that started a stretch of 10 straight postseason appearances in which it failed to win a regional. However, the Red Raiders experienced a 10-year drought until Tadlock took them to Omaha in 2014. That was the first of four College World Series appearances for Texas Tech, which has never won more than one game in its previous three trips.

Common Opponents

Kentucky

On the second weekend of the season, Texas Tech hosted Kentucky for a three-game series. The Red Raiders used a six-run inning in each of the first two matchups to get a pair of three-run wins and then exploded for a 19-4 win to complete the sweep.

Arkansas didn’t have too many issues winning its first two games in Lexington, Ky., but couldn’t quite finish the sweep. Playing a seven-inning doubleheader because of weather earlier in the weekend, the Razorbacks didn’t chase Zack Thompson until the seventh inning. They had the tying run on third, only for Dominic Fletcher to ground into a game-ending double play on the first pitch by the reliever.

Mississippi State

At the Frisco College Baseball Classic, the Red Raiders committed three errors and mustered only three hits in a 4-2 loss to the Bulldogs.

After Isaiah Campbell won a duel with Ethan Small, the Razorbacks’ offense exploded over the next two days to beat Mississippi State 12-5 and 10-2, completing an impressive sweep.

Texas

Texas Tech traveled to Austin for the opening weekend of conference play and lost a pair of 4-3 games sandwiched around a 3-0 win.

Before heading to its first SEC road series of the season, Arkansas went to Texas for a two-game midweek series. The Razorbacks dismantled the Longhorns in the first game and nearly won the second game despite pitching a bunch of freshmen who couldn’t find the strike zone.

TCU

To end the regular season, Texas Tech hosted TCU and dropped a heartbreaker in 14 innings to open the series. The Red Raiders bounced back, though, beating the Horned Frogs 7-2 and 8-4 in the next two games.

As the last team in the NCAA Tournament, TCU was shipped to the Fayetteville Regional and actually finished runner-up to the Razorbacks. Campbell out-dueled Nick Lodolo in the winner’s bracket game 3-1 and then Arkansas won the regional final 6-0.

Projected Starting Lineup

C - Braxton Fulford (so.): .292/.389/.416, 8 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 33 RBI, 35 R, 22 BB/54 K, 0-0 SB, 68-84 SBA

1B - Cameron Warren (sr.): .354/.448/.664, 16 2B, 2 3B, 17 HR, 76 RBI, 60 R, 37 BB/28 K, 1-1 SB

2B - Brian Klein (jr.): .317/.411/.425, 19 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 54 RBI, 51 R, 44 BB/38 K, 0-1 SB

3B - Dru Baker (fr.): .326/.403/.457, 6 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 29 R, 14 BB/27 K, 3-4 SB

-OR- Parker Kelly (so.): .202/.280/.310, 6 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 12 R, 6 BB/34 K

-OR- Easton Murrell (so.): .219/.405/.281, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 7 R, 7 BB/9 K

SS - Josh Jung (jr.): .342/.476/.636, 22 2B, 1 3B, 14 HR, 56 RBI, 62 R, 52 BB/39 K, 1-2 SB

LF - Kurt Wilson (so.): .243/.329/.432, 2 2B, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 10 R, 9 BB/16 K, 2-3 SB

CF - Dylan Neuse (so.): .307/.418/.518, 12 2B, 6 3B, 8 HR, 51 RBI, 55 R, 42 BB/55 K, 17-19 SB

RF - Gabe Holt (so.): .320/.413/.438, 15 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 35 RBI, 53 R, 37 BB/28 K, 28-31 SB

DH - Cody Masters (so.): .303/.386/.470, 7 2B, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 23 R, 16 BB/31 K, 5-5 SB

-OR- Cole Stilwell (fr.): .270/.411/.410, 6 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 23 R, 24 BB/28 K, 1-1 SB

The Stud

It would be easy to say the top-10 draft pick is their stud, but the Red Raiders honestly have a great 1-2 punch in their lineup. Josh Jung and Cameron Warren have hit clean-up and in the five-hole, respectively, most of the second half of Texas Tech’s season.

Jung is probably the name most fans remember, as he hit .392 and was named to several All-America teams as a sophomore last year. Despite his average being 50 points lower heading into the College World Series, he’s increased his home runs total - 12 to 14 - and was the No. 8 overall pick in last week’s draft.

Although he’s not nearly as highly regarded by professional scouts, Warren has been a consistent source of production during his senior year. He was good last season, but has been even better in 2019, improving his batting average by 28 points and hitting seven more home runs, so far.

Combined, they went just 2 for 11 with two walks against the Razorbacks last year.

Holt has Surgery

Right behind those guys, Gabe Holt is probably the Red Raiders’ third best player. As their leadoff man, he has hit well (.320) and is a huge threat on the base paths, with a Big 12-leading 28 stolen bases.

However, he likely won’t be at 100 percent for the College World Series. According to D1Baseball’s Kendall Rogers, Holt had surgery to repair an injured thumb Monday morning after missing Game 3 of the super regional.

The Red Raiders are hopeful that he’ll still be able to play in Omaha.

Starting Rotation

~Fr. RHP Micah Dallas (17 games/11 starts, 7-0, 3.38 ERA, 82 K/26 BB, 72 IP)

~Jr. RHP Caleb Kilian (16 games/16 starts, 8-3, 3.93 ERA, 80 K/19 BB, 89 1/3 IP)

~So. RHP Bryce Bonnin (14 games/12 starts, 6-1, 4.42 ERA, 58 K/41 BB, 59 IP)

If Arkansas and Texas Tech meet Monday in either the first elimination game or the winner’s bracket game, it will likely face Kilian. Now in his second season in the Red Raiders’ weekend rotation, he has College World Series experience, having allowed three earned runs on three hits and three walks over 4 1/3 innings in an elimination game loss to Florida.

Familiar Faces

Two of the names listed above probably jump out to Arkansas fans: Easton Murrell and Bryce Bonnin. Both were members of the Razorbacks’ 2017 signing class and were freshmen on last year’s national runner-up team.

Murrell played sparingly, appearing in only seven games and going just 1 for 8 at the plate, but Bonnin was a heralded recruit who turned down the pros and was a factor on Arkansas’ pitching staff.

He went 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 19 innings with the Razorbacks. That includes an outing in the College World Series, in which he faced two batters and retired one against Texas.

Teammates again in Lubbock, they have both had bigger roles as sophomores. Murrell has actually started nine games, going 7 for 32 at the plate, and Bonnin has been a part of the Red Raiders’ starting rotation most of the year, going 6-1 with a 4.42 ERA in 59 innings.

After an abysmal start to the season, in which he gave up four earned runs in 1/3 of an inning, Bonnin has settled in over the last month and a half. In his last six starts, he has a 2.53 ERA. Walks have still been an issue, though, as he has 41 so far this year. With the Razorbacks, he had 12 in 19 innings.

The Bullpen

The Red Raiders have a very good bullpen to follow their starters, with juniors Dane Haveman, Taylor Floyd and John McMillon all putting up really solid numbers. All three have three saves apiece and ERAs ranging from 2.57 to 3.30 with 42-plus innings.

Haveman (2.57 ERA) is a left-hander does not issue free passes, as he has only eight walks in 42 innings and averages 7.3 strikeouts per walk. Floyd (2.81 ERA) is a high strikeout guy, with 79 in 51 1/3 innings - an average of 13.9 per nine innings. McMillon (3.30 ERA) limits opponents to a .206 batting average. The latter two are right-handers.

Those guys also have a lot more innings than appearances, meaning they are capable of providing longer relief if necessary. In fact, McMillon averages just over two innings per outing.

If those guys can’t finish it off themselves, Texas Tech will turn it over to redshirt freshman right-hander Clayton Beeter. He has a team-high eight saves and a 3.20 ERA. Opponents are hitting just .162 against him and have struck out 39 times in 19 2/3 innings.

MLB Draft

Texas Tech had seven players taken in last week’s MLB Draft…

~Josh Jung: Rangers - 1st round, 8th overall

~Gabe Holt: Brewers - 7th round, 223rd overall

~Caleb Kilian: Giants - 8th round, 236th overall

~Taylor Floyd: Brewers - 10th round, 313th overall

~John McMillon: Tigers - 11th round, 322nd overall

~Caleb Freeman: White Sox - 15th round, 440th overall

~Cameron Warren: Reds - 22nd round, 654th overall

Former SWC Foes

Before they were members of the Big 12 and SEC, Texas Tech and Arkansas were actually rivals in the old Southwest Conference. They played at least three games every season between 1974-1991, with the Razorbacks winning all but three of the 15 regular-season series during that stretch.

Throw in one meeting at the SWC Tournament and Arkansas led the series 42-13. That domination has continued as non-conference foes, as well, with the Razorbacks winning four of the five matchups since they left for the SEC.

The lone Texas Tech victory during that span was at the 1995 Midwest I Regional. Arkansas has won the last four meetings, with two in the Houston College Classic (2012 and 2016). The other two were last year, one being a midweek game and the other coming in Omaha.

Stat Comparison - Arkansas | Texas Tech (national rank, out of 297)

RPI: No. 6 | No. 11 (entering the NCAA Tournament)

Batting average: .301 (17th) | .301 (16th)

Slugging percentage: .495 (8th) | .475 (18th)

On-base percentage: .397 (20th) | .405 (12th)

Home runs: 87 (t-8th) | 67 (t-34th)

Runs/game: 7.6 (15th) | 7.5 (16th)

ERA: 3.92 (44th) | 3.90 (43rd)

WHIP: 1.25 (14th) | 1.39 (68th)

Strikeouts/9 innings: 9.5 (24th) | 9.5 (23rd)

Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 2.56 (31st) | 2.34 (54th)

Fielding percentage: .972 (97th) | .976 (46th)

Stolen bases/game: 1.25 (82nd) | 1.11 (109th)